Patriot League Division Series – Game 5

PBL Eastern Division Final Game 5

JACKSONVILLE DRAGONS 5, KNOXVILLE SMOKIES 0

The Jacksonville Dragons are far better known for their hitting than their pitching.  To the degree that they’ve become known for their arms, most of the chatter circled around big-talking ace Biggs McGee, rookie sensation Bryce Hobbs, or the late-inning trio of Blueberry Jackson, Lance Newman, and Razor Corridon.

One name that rarely comes up is the Dragons’ #2 starter, Kyle Palmer.  The hard-throwing youngster quietly put together a solid 2016 campaign (17-7, 4.28 ERA, .739 OPS against), but few would consider him an elite starter.  He’s knocked for being inconsistent and injury-prone, and there’s a sense that he hasn’t figured out how to get the most out of his tremendous natural ability.  After the Knoxville Smokies raked Palmer in a 9-1 rout in Game 2 of this series, the chorus of critics only grew louder, saying that Jacksonville would never be a real contender unless they could find a better second starter.

Palmer’s start in today’s Game 5, though, may start to change the perception around him.  Inspired by McGee’s winning start on three days’ rest in Game 4, Palmer went to manager Steve Califano and volunteered to go on short rest as well.  And while McGee impressed with a solid 6-inning start that helped the Dragons to victory, Palmer (1-1) did him one better: he tossed a complete-game two-hit shutout, lifting Jacksonville to a 5-0 win that moved them within one game of a stunning series victory.

“My main man Kyle Palmer!” exclaimed McGee after the game.  “I’ve always known that he was something special.  He just needed the right moment to shine.  And inspired by my example, he delivered us to victory!”

Califano raved about Palmer’s poise and confidence.  “I’ve always been a believer in Kyle, but he’s always been a guy who’s been on the brink of figuring it out but not quite there,” said the Dragons skipper.  “He’s got the tools, but when he struggles, he tends to fall back on throwing instead of pitching.  Today, he was a pitcher.  He wasn’t just rearing back and firing; he was working to the hitters’ weaknesses and using that to his advantage.  Just masterful.”

For offense, the Dragons relied on another underrated player: LF Rob Hartley.  The mountain-sized slugger is known around the league for his prodigious bombs, but he rarely comes up in discussions of the league’s top players.  Either he’s caricatured as a one-dimensional freak of nature, or he’s ignored because of his introverted, press-shy personality.

Today, Hartley made himself impossible to ignore, driving in all of Jacksonville’s runs.  In the 1st, he hit a long fly to center that nearly went out, but instead went for a sac fly that brought in the game’s first tally.  In the 3rd, he broke the game open with a mammoth blast down the left-field line for a three-run homer.  In the 5th, he hit an 0-2 sinker from Smokies starter Jack Jacques (0-1) to the upper deck in left center for a solo shot.

“Rob is a national treasure,” said Califano.  “People think he’s just an all-or-nothing slugging machine, but he’s been so much more for us.  I know he doesn’t like the spotlight, but sometimes the game finds you, and he came through when it counted.”

While Califano lavished praise on his starter and his slugger, his opposite number was in a very different mood.  Smokies manager Snuff Wallace had widely predicted that his team would roll right over the underdog Dragons.  Now, his team is just one loss away from a shocking and embarrassing defeat.

During a terse and snappish press conference, Wallace called out his players for lackadaisical effort.  “Seems like they were taking it for granted,” said the Knoxville skipper.  “They won a couple game and then hit the snooze alarm.  Good thing for them we had some [expletive]-around room.  Well, now there’s no more [expletive]-around room.

“We’ve got two games at home, and we’ve got to win them both.  There’s plenty enough talent here to win it, but do they have the killer instinct?  We’ll find out.”

 

9/23/2017, KNX16-JAX16, Tesla Field
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Smokies           0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0     0  2  0     5  0
2016 Dragons           1  0  3  0  1  0  0  0  x     5  6  0     4  0
 
Smokies              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Dragons              AB  R  H BI   AVG
Johnson           lf  4  0  0  0  .238    Taliaferro        2b  3  1  0  0  .227
Campo             2b  4  0  1  0  .238    Kapoor            3b  4  1  3  0  .474
Battin            1b  3  0  0  0  .263    Hartley           lf  3  2  2  5  .263
Campo             rf  2  0  0  0  .316    Soria             1b  4  0  0  0  .238
Moriarty          ss  4  0  1  0  .350    Hopps             rf  3  0  0  0  .278
Credle            c   3  0  0  0  .316    Leon              cf  4  0  0  0  .167
Blair             cf  3  0  0  0  .118    Soltero           dh  3  0  0  0  .176
Valentim          dh  3  0  0  0  .294    Teachout          c   3  0  0  0  .222
Figeroa           3b  3  0  0  0  .294    Herdt             ss  2  1  1  0  .500
                     29  0  2  0           Burt             ss  0  0  0  0  .000
                                                               29  5  6  5
 
Smokies                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Jacques          L 0-1           8.0  6  5  5  2 14 136  86  7.90
                                 8.0  6  5  5  2 14 136  86 
 
Dragons                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Palmer           W 1-1           9.0  2  0  0  3  6 134  90  3.14
                                 9.0  2  0  0  3  6 134  90 
 
JAX: Burt inserted at ss in the 8th
 
2B-Kapoor(2), Herdt(3). HR-Hartley 2(3). RBI-Hartley 5(8). K-Johnson, 
Battin 2, Campo, Moriarty, Blair, Taliaferro, Kapoor, Hartley, Soria 3, 
Hopps 2, Leon 2, Soltero, Teachout 2, Herdt. BB-Battin, Campo 2, Hopps, 
Herdt. SF-Hartley. HBP-Taliaferro. HB-Jacques. 
GWRBI: Hartley
Temperature: 84, Sky: clear, Wind: in from left at 4 MPH.

 

PBL Western Division Series, Game 5

SILVER CITY OUTLAWS 16, CALIFORNIA SHARKS 4

Up to this point, the Western Division Series has been an incredibly close and thrilling matchup.  The first four games of the series were each decided by one run.  “So far, we have had the pleasure of seeing two strong and talented team playing chess at the highest level,” said California Sharks manager Eduardo Aponte.

That all changed in today’s Game 5, as the Silver City Outlaws got their offense going early and often.  They shelled Sharks ace Kevin Conner, then pulverized the bullpen and left them for dead in a 16-4 blowout that gave the Outlaws a 3-2 lead in the series.

On paper, this game looked like a mismatch: Conner was one of the best starters in the league and dominated Silver City in Game 1, while Outlaws starter Kevin Jennings was a rookie who went 10-10 with a 4.73 ERA and had just returned from an ankle injury.

As it turned out, the game was indeed a mismatch… but not the one that was expected.  Conner struggled to keep the ball in the park, allowing longballs to LF Marlon Hintz and CF Javier Cardona in the first 3 innings.  But the Sharks also had some success against Jennings, and it seemed like the game would turn into a shootout.

Then came the bottom of the 4th, when the game went from a shootout to a slaughter.  Aponte pulled Conner after he issued a one-out walk, bringing in former closer Eugene Grace instead.  The veteran left-hander did not provide the relief Aponte was seeking.  He surrendered two singles, a double, a stolen base, and two runs while recording only one out.

Aponte then brought in Matt Simpson, the team’s fifth starter during the regular season, and things did not improve.  He allowed a single, a walk, and then Cardona’s second homer of the day, a three-run blast.  Suddenly the score was 11-4, and the competitive portion of the evening was over.

Meanwhile, Jennings (1-0) settled down after his early rocky outing, scattering four singles over the final 5 innings to collect the complete-game win.

In the mind of Outlaws skipper John Jarha, there was another factor in Silver City’s big win: the famously raucous crowd at The Corral.  “This is a tough place to play for a visiting club,” said Jarha.  “The crowd is right on top of you, and they don’t let up from the first pitch to the end.  You’ve really got to have a set of stones to come in here and win.  And this bunch from California… they’re good players, but I don’t know if they’ve got the testicular fortitude.  The fact that they won the two games in their yard, and we won all three in ours… I don’t think that’s an accident.”

As for Aponte, he had very clear instructions for his team about the takeaways from this game: “Forget about it.  Burn the tape, flush it down the memory hole.  As far as we are concerned, there was no game today.  We must turn our attention to Games 6 and 7.  That is our focus.”

 

9/23/2017, CAL16-SCO16, The Corral
 
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2016 Sharks            0  0  1  3  0  0  0  0  0     4  9  0     6  0
2016 Outlaws           1  1  3  6  0  1  2  2  x    16 18  1     8  2
 
Sharks               AB  R  H BI   AVG    Outlaws              AB  R  H BI   AVG
Corona            rf  5  0  0  0  .304    Ivey              dh  5  1  2  0  .158
Smyth             ss  4  0  1  0  .286     Ginder           ph  0  0  0  1  .000
Canales           cf  4  0  0  0  .158    Brewmaker         3b  5  1  1  1  .238
Mader             lf  4  1  2  0  .300    Taylor            ss  5  1  1  1  .238
Nix               dh  4  0  1  0  .211    Wason             rf  4  1  3  3  .500
Lockley           c   4  1  2  1  .294     Whittier         rf  0  0  0  0  .250
Gerke             1b  3  1  0  0  .111    Elliott           1b  5  1  2  1  .190
Oller             3b  3  0  0  0  .267    Barkan            2b  3  3  2  1  .200
 Gonzalez         ph  0  0  0  0  .000    Watson            c   3  2  1  1  .231
Strachan          2b  4  1  3  3  .412     Barraza          ph  0  1  0  0  .200
                     35  4  9  4          Cardona           cf  5  3  4  6  .412
                                          Hintz             lf  3  2  1  1  .273
                                           Baynes           ph  1  0  1  0 1.000
                                                               39 16 18 16
 
Sharks                           INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Conner           L 1-1           3.1  7  6  6  3  4  68  43  6.10
Grace                            0.1  3  2  2  0  0   9   7 54.00
Simpson                          2.1  4  6  6  2  5  59  35 23.14
Orf                              1.0  4  2  2  2  1  42  21 18.00
Arzola                           1.0  0  0  0  0  2   7   7  0.00
                                 8.0 18 16 16  7 12 185 113 
 
Outlaws                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Jennings         W 1-0           9.0  9  4  4  2  5 130  86  4.00
                                 9.0  9  4  4  2  5 130  86 
 
CAL: Gonzalez batted for Oller in the 9th
SCO: Whittier inserted at rf in the 8th
     Barraza batted for Watson in the 8th
     Baynes batted for Hintz in the 8th
     Ginder batted for Ivey in the 8th
     Barraza moved to c in the 9th
     Baynes moved to lf in the 9th
 
E-Taylor. 2B-Mader(1), Strachan(2), Ivey(2), Elliott(1), Watson(1). 
HR-Strachan(2), Wason(3), Cardona 2(3), Hintz(1). RBI-Lockley(3), 
Strachan 3(4), Brewmaker(3), Taylor(3), Wason 3(7), Elliott(2), Barkan(1), 
Watson(2), Cardona 6(7), Hintz(2), Ginder(1). SB-Ivey(2), Taylor(1). 
K-Smyth 2, Mader, Lockley, Gerke, Ivey 2, Brewmaker 2, Taylor 4, Elliott 2, 
Watson, Hintz. BB-Gerke, Gonzalez, Brewmaker, Wason, Barkan 2, Watson, Hintz, 
Barraza. SF-Taylor, Ginder. WP-Orf. 
GWRBI: Elliott
Temperature: 85, Sky: clear, Wind: out to left at 5 MPH.

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